We are facing the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and people are trying every way to protect themselves from this deadly disease. The COVID-19 virus primarily affects the respiratory system. Therefore, practicing breathing exercises may be beneficial during recovery from COVID-19. Breathing exercises can help strengthen the respiratory system and help fight and reduce the impact of coronavirus before, during and after it strikes. Apart from this, breathing exercises also reduce stress, anxiety and help calm the body and mind.
To note: The breathing exercises mentioned in this article will not prevent COVID-19, but they may help relieve symptoms of COVID-19. They are also helpful in reducing frustration, stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic.
1. Pursed-lip breathing
Pursed-lip breathing is a simple breathing exercise that helps slow down breathing, promoting a sense of relaxation. It has also been shown to relieve shortness of breath, increase oxygen levels and strengthen the lungs.
- Sit in a comfortable position.
- Then close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nose for a count of two.
- Continue to inhale several times.
- The next step is to purse your lips as if you were going to blow out a candle and exhale for a count of four.
- Repeat for 4-5 breaths and periodically throughout the day.
Anulom-Vilom is also known as alternate nostril breathing. This pranayama has many health benefits – which can help combat complications related to COVID-19 – such as improved lung capacity, better blood circulation, a clear nasal passage and reduced stress. This is a popular pranayama where you close one nostril while inhaling, then close the other nostril while exhaling.
- Sit in a meditation position on the chair or on the floor and close your eyes.
- Relax, but straighten your neck and spine in a straight line and place your wrists on your knees.
- Close your right nostril by pressing it with your right thumb and inhale through the left nostril.
- Place your ring finger over the left nostril and release your right nostril to exhale through it.
- Your breathing should be slow and deep.
- Continue this technique of breathing through alternate nostrils for 10 minutes.
3. Bhramari pranayama
Prince Brahmari, also known as Bee Humming, is one of the most effective breathing exercises. It helps to induce a calming effect on the mind. This breathing technique helps get rid of frustration, anxiety and also reduces fatigue. Brahmari pranayama is simple and can be practiced anywhere and anytime.
- Sit in a chair or on the floor cross-legged.
- Close your ears with your thumb.
- Place your middle and ring fingers lightly at the inner corner of your eyes.
- Place your index finger above your eyebrows and your little finger where it rests on your cheeks.
- Inhale deeply and as you exhale make a soft buzz like a bee.
- Repeat this process for 10 minutes to reap its benefits.
4. Ujjayi pranayama (breath of the ocean)
This breathing practice is one of the most common forms of breath control pranayama. Ujjayi pranayama, when performed correctly, can increase oxygen consumption. According to the Department of Neurophysiology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience, Bangalore, this pranayama can increase your oxygen consumption by 52% during practice.
- Sit up straight with your shoulders relaxed away from your ears and close your eyes.
- Compress your throat so that you produce a slight hiss as you exhale.
- Once you’re comfortable exhaling, compress your throat as you inhale – again until a soft hiss is heard.
- Control your inhales and exhales with your diaphragm.
- When you can control your throat by inhaling and exhaling, close your mouth and start breathing through your nose. Continue compressing your throat as you did when your mouth was open. The breath will always emit a soft hiss in and out of the nose – this is Ujjayi breathing.
- Make sure that the duration of your inhales and exhales are equal.
5. Kevali Pranayama (So-Ham)
Also known as So-Hum and Hamsa, Kevali pranayama is all about identifying with the ultimate, the universe. In light of meditation, you can divide the word Sohum into two parts. ‘So’ will denote an inhale, and ‘Hum’ will sound like an exhale. When practicing this pranayama, repeat the breath mantra in your mind to get the most out of it. It is one of the best breathing exercises to improve your lung capacity.
- Make yourself comfortable in a seated position.
- Focus on your breathing.
- Now inhale and exhale while observing your breathing.
- Mentally repeat the mantra and listen to the sound of your in-breaths (So) and out-breaths (Hum).
- Continue for 11 rounds.
3 Breathing exercises for patients with COVID-19
Symptoms in people with acute COVID-19 usually begin between 2 and 14 days after exposure. Although symptoms disappear within 2 weeks, some people have persistent symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath for a longer duration. Breathing exercises can help recover from the COVID-19 virus.
Caution: If you have COVID-19, check with your doctor before beginning breathing exercises to avoid worsening symptoms.
1. Yawn for a smile
This breathing exercise allows the diaphragm to fully expand, which causes your chest muscles to open up. It also promotes coordination and strengthens the muscles of your arms and shoulders.
- Sit up straight on the edge of your bed or on the floor.
- Stretch your arms up to shoulder height – this will stretch your back muscles.
- With your arms outstretched, open your mouth wide to create a big yawn.
- Bring your arms down and wrap it up with a smile.
- Continue 5 times.
2. Qigong Belly Breathing
Abdominal breathing requires deep breathing, which helps restore lung function by using the diaphragm. Several studies have shown that practicing Qigong improved lung function and increased lung capacity in COVID-19 patients. Indeed, this breathing exercise uses deep breathing and slow movements, which may prove beneficial for patients recovering from COVID-19.
- Sit on the floor and relax your body.
- Follow this by straightening your back and closing your eyes.
- Breathe as you normally do for a few minutes.
- Next, place one hand on your chest and the other on your lower abdomen.
- And breathe slowly nine to ten times.
3. Om breathing (humming while exhaling)
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine“Humming while exhaling helps increase nitric oxide production in the body. Nitric oxide helps with neural plasticity (building and repairing the nervous system) and it dilates blood vessels, allowing more oxygen to be delivered throughout the body. Humming is also calming and soothing, it reduces stress and can help the patient stay in restorative mode.”
- Sit up straight and place each hand on the sides of your lower abdomen.
- Keeping your lips closed, gently place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and inhale deeply through your nose. Remember to keep your lips closed.
- Let your fingers expand widely with your breath.
- Once you feel your lungs are full, exhale slowly while chanting OMmmmm.. This way, Mmm Makara is longer.. 1:2 ratio.
- Repeat for several breaths or for one minute.
The exercises described in this article will not help prevent COVID-19 and should not be replaced by ongoing treatment for the disease. Performing these breathing exercises for COVID-19 can help strengthen your respiratory system, which can help you fight infections and may aid your recovery process.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A. Breathing exercises can be an effective way to restore your lung capacity, but it is advisable to consult your doctor before performing breathing exercises. If you have symptoms such as shortness of breath at rest, irregular heartbeat, or chest pain, performing breathing exercises may make your symptoms worse.
A.1) Supply of more oxygen. 2) Use of the different lobes of the lungs (aeration of the whole lungs). 3) Removal of many. Pranayama helps in better circulation which reduces mucus and also strengthens the organs.